Tir Y Gafel – Wales First Ecovillage
Green living is becoming more of a popular lifestyle choice, encouraging more eco-friendly homes and communities to be formed. One such community in West Wales are transcending efforts in exemplifying a green lifestyle by creating an Eco-village.
Lammas, a cooperative with several hundred members and several thousand supporters, is dedicated to advocating the benefits of living in an ecovillage named Tir y Gafel, in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Building work commenced on Tir y Gafel in autumn 2009.
Lammas’ wish is to demonstrate the potential in eco-living in the hopes it will inspire other villages to emulate Tir y Gafel’s example of its use of ‘design and development of productive and sustainable gardens and farms.
Tir y Gafel will consist of 9 eco-small holdings (5 detached dwellings and 1 terrace of 4 dwellings), a campsite and community hub building; all which will be built utilising low impact architecture using a combination of recycled materials alongside natural materials such as turf roofs, cob walls and timber cladding, which subsequently adds to the attractive green aesthetics of the landscape.
The homes will run dependently on their own resources, self reliant through the latest environmental technologies. All the water will be sourced from the land. Spring water will provide drinking water and water produced from rainwater harvesting will provide water for other uses such as outside taps and washing machines. Furthermore, electricity will be generated utilising renewable energy. Compost toilets, wormeries and compost heaps will all be used to create compost from organic waste. Compost toilets are conducive in saving water since little or no water is used to treat excretions through an aerobic processing system.
The premise of the ecovillage is based on permaculture living; combining elements of nature, such as animals and woodland, functioning dependently from each other to create productive eco systems, maintaining a self-reliant network which humans can help preserve. The location of Tir y Gafel is ideal for living a permaculture lifestyle; the village will be built on 76 acres of mixed pasture with broadleaf woodland nearby, and conifer woodland which provides natural materials for building.
Additionally, fuel will be produced from coppiced willow and elephant grass grown on the land. Coppiced willow is the result of a tree being cut down in order to gather the stems that can be used for fuel. Since the willow tree stumps, after being cut down, can be grown and cut down repeatedly every 3 to 4 years for a minimum of 30 years, the growing of the tree sustains Lammas’ permaculture principle.
Coppiced woodland also preserves the wildfire; it is a natural habitat for birds. Moreover, the production and burning of the wood near to where trees were grown lessens ‘energy miles’. Both coppiced willow and elephant grass are kind to the environment; the burning of coppiced willow releases the carbon used up when grown; the growing of elephant grass draws carbon dioxide from the air and when burnt that same carbon dioxide is returned, meaning the usage of coppiced willow and elephant grass help reduce carbon footprint.
Additionally, in aiming to reduce carbon footprint further, residents are required to reduce their car use to the bare minimum and are expected to partake in car-sharing schemes. Visitors are not exempt and will be encouraged to use public transport to arrive at the village. Consequently, Lammas will pay to transport passengers to and from local towns through a minibus service.
Lammas’ vision includes the enhancement of biodiversity as well as creating a sustainable yield from the land. Subsequently, residents of Tir y Gafel will be expected to show that they are making the most of the land, exploiting its maximum green power potential to support the maintenance of both their dwellings and environment. Thus, residents have expressed a desire to create livelihoods from woodland crafts, horticulture, tree nurseries, livestock and woollen crafts at the same time preserving the environment by encouraging others to live an eco-friendly lifestyle through their livelihood.
Goods such as soft fruit, woodland crafts and vegetables will be produced by small-scale farm businesses run by the nine households in the ecovillage and will subsequently be sold to establishments such as local shops and the Lammas market stall.
Lammas primary agenda in creating an ecovillage is "to assist people to become more self-reliant through the design and development of productive and sustainable gardens and farms." The plans for the ecovillage are a good indication that the objectives will be met. Tir y Gafel will truly run solely on natural resources as humans and nature rely on only each other, in a biodiversity environment, to preserve the planet just as nature intended.
The success of Lammas’ first ecovillage will surely exemplify the potential in using natural sources and hopefully influence a knock-on effect, inspiring similar projects throughout the UK.
Author: Leia Licorish
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